National Evaluation of a Mileage-Based Road User Charge

As part of the Transportation Policy Research Program, the Public Policy Center is now conducting "A National Evaluation of a Mileage-Based Road User Charge" study. This four-year study is investigating and testing a new approach to assessing and collecting road user charges. The study involves placing an on-board computer or OBC into participants’ vehicles. Data are then collected from both the technology and the participants. Participants have been selected from six locations nationwide and range in age, education, and background. The GPS located in the OBC in participants' vehicles keeps track of the number miles they travel and submits the information to the PPC to be processed and evaluated. The study involves two major issues: 1) testing the appropriateness of the technology and 2) looking at user accessibility and acceptability. The two-year field test is currently well underway. Over the past two years approximately 2,000 vehicles have had the necessary on-board equipment installed. Participants have been selected from regions across the U.S., and from communities ranging from rural to urban. The first major issue of the study, ensuring that the equipment is reliable, user-friendly, and secure, has been largely resolved during the last year and a half of field testing. The second major issue is looking at how participants view the possible change in tax systems. The motor fuel tax has supported the nation’s roads for over seventy years, and the income from the tax is steadily decreasing. Were this system to be implemented, users would receive detailed invoices of a breakdown of how and what they would be charged for their actual use of roads. The study is looking at how a mileage-based road user charge would be received as a taxing system, as well as how participants view the equipment being used. It is necessary for our nation to come up with a plan that is convenient for road users and that will generate an appropriate amount of income to ensure the safety and usability of our nation’s roads.